N.Y. firefighter not wearing seatbelt at time of death

By Bryan Chu
The Times Union
Copyright 2007 The Hearst Corporation
All Rights Reserved

MENANDS, N.Y. — Fire Police Capt. Edgar Scott was making a U-turn and was not wearing a seat belt when his van collided with a propane tanker on I-787, killing him and injuring two others, State Police said Thursday.

Scott, 75, of Menands, a longtime volunteer in the village, was driving a marked Menands emergency fire station box van, responding to a motorcycle accident on I-787, when he was ejected from the vehicle by the impact of the crash.

Trooper Maureen Tuffey, a State Police spokesman, said additional investigation into the crash revealed the details about the seat belt and the U-turn.

Whether Scott was in violation of any department regulations remained unclear Thursday.

Village Mayor Thomas Coates -- who was sworn into office less than 24 hours before the accident -- said he checked with other village officials, who told him state law does not require seat belts in emergency vehicles.

"As far as I know, everything was done by the book," Coates said.

Seat belt protocols for officers vary, said David Quinn, chief administrator officer for the Fireman's Association of the State of New York (FASNY), based in Albany.

Quinn, also a volunteer fire police officer for the Rensselaer Fire Department, said on-duty officers are, as emergency responders, generally exempt from wearing seat belts under state law. But at his fire department they still are required to do so.

"I guess that's the safest way for the occupants and volunteers," Quinn said. "I think departments should make a decision that leads to the safest outcome for their volunteers."

Calls to Menands Fire Chief Frank Primo were not immediately returned.

Tuffey said Scott made a U-turn southbound to cross over to the northbound side of the freeway where the motorcycle accident had occurred.

But before crossing over, the van's driver side collided with the front fender of a propane tanker, driven by Gary Adams of Londonderry, Vt. Scott was ejected from the driver's seat and died at the scene.

According to the State Police, a statement issued Wednesday was inaccurate in saying its investigation appears to show the driver of the tanker was not at fault. The State Police refused further comment on the crash until the investigation is completed.

Making a U-turn on a highway "depends on the situation and protocol to get there as efficiently as possible," Quinn said.

The crash occurred shortly after 5 p.m. when traffic volume, Quinn noted, is at its highest.

"We are in a dangerous position no matter what apparatus we're driving in," Quinn said. "It's dangerous especially that time of day; lots of traffic. You have to take the best precaution. It's a dangerous job. Things like this unfortunately do happen."

Scott's vehicle, which had its sirens operating, carried two others who sustained injuries. Fire Police Lt. Edward Himes still was recuperating at St. Peter's Hospital Thursday from non-life-threatening injuries, and fire police officer Diane Brunelle was discharged Tuesday from Albany Memorial Center Hospital.

Neither of the vehicles flipped, Tuffey said. It still is uncertain where Himes, 56, and Brunelle, 57, were sitting.

The make and model of the van was not released.

Volunteer fire officers travel in either their personal vehicles or a fire station vehicle. They often carry blue sirens, a courtesy light meant for civilians to notice they are trying to respond to a call and to let them pass.

In case of injury or death, volunteer fire police officers fall under the Volunteer Firefighters Benefit Law, which compensates for injuries and deaths, similar to that of worker's compensation. Surviving spouses are paid a one-time lump sum of $50,000.

A memorial service for Edgar Scott will be held April 13 at the Marriott Hotel on Wolf Road.

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